County Employment Up, Population Down
While Chautauqua County’s population has dropped 6.5% in the last decade, county employees funded by taxes have increased 19.6%.
The Post-Journal and OBSERVER filed a Freedom Of Information Request for the number of county employees over the last decade.
The county provided staff in each department. There were 22 departments that are funded through the county budget. There’s also another six departments that are self-funded today. The biggest of those is the is the landfill, while the others are water and sewer districts. Those six departments rely on fees charged to pay for their expenses.
Of the 22 departments in Chautauqua County government funded by taxes, 16 have increased staff in the last 10 years. Of the six departments that reduced staffing levels, two — county coroners and the youth bureau — were merged into existing departments, leaving four that have dropped staff.
Some departments increased by a large percentage but only have a handful of employees, and are still relatively small. Other departments can seem rather large and had large increases but percentage wise, haven’t grown too significantly.
The departments that increased in size are as follows: District Attorney, Sheriff, County Executive, County Attorney, Public Defender, Probation, Emergency Services, Information Technology Services, Finance, Human Resources, Public Facilities, Public Health, Mental Health, Office for the Aging, Planning and Economic Development, and Board of Elections.
INCREASE BY PERCENTAGE
The top three department increases over the last decade by percentage are: Emergency Services, Public Defender, and County Executive. Each of those departments more than doubled their size.
The largest by far is Emergency Services, which went up 389%. In 2013, the department had roughly 7 employees; it is scheduled to have 34 full time positions starting in January. Officials note that in 2013, the county did not have a fly car system but it does today. County lawmakers have been trying to get as much of the department, if not all, paid through insurance, but so far they have been falling well short.
The Public Defenders Office went from 19 positions in 2013 to 63 in 2023. That is a nearly 234% increase in staff. A note from the county states that this department, along with the District Attorney’s Office, has significantly increased with grant funded positions. Grants are generally from the state or federal government, although it is possible they can come from non-profit agencies.
The County Executive’s Office in 2013 had 3 full-time positions. It’s scheduled to have 7 in 2023. That increase wasn’t done overnight; it had 5 people in 2016, 6 people in 2020, and 7 in 2021. Even though the department has increased by 124%, its staffing is only up by 4 people, about 0.3% of the entire county staff paid through taxes.
Other departments that went up by 50% or higher include District Attorney (17 to 31, up 79%); Information Technology Services (9 to 15, up 58%), and Public Health (53 to 80, up 50%). Out of those three departments, only Information Technology didn’t get an increase in grant funds.
INCREASE BY NUMBERS
The departments that added the most bodies are the Public Defenders Office, Mental Health, and the Sheriff’s Office.
The Public Defenders Office is up 44 people.
The Department of Mental Health is up 40 people. It went from 88 in 2013 to 128 for 2023. That’s a 45% increase.
The Sheriff’s Office is up 29 people. It went from 221 in 2013 to 250 for 2023. But even though it is up by nearly 30 people, percentage wise, it’s up about 13%. The county notes that today their department includes School Resource Officers. School districts who want officers must pay the county for them, so they are essentially a wash when it comes to the budget. The Sheriff’s Office has seven SROs. Two of them are assigned to BOCES (two staff; one for Maple Avenue, Cassadaga, the other splits time between Loguidice in Fredonia and Hewes in Ashville), one at Pine Valley, one at Frewsburg, one at Silver Creek, one at Forestville, and one in Brocton.
Other departments that had double digit increases in staff include: Mental Health (40 new staff), Emergency Services (27 new staff), Public Health (27 new staff), Public Facilities (25 new staff), District Attorney (14 new staff) and Probation (10 new staff).
The county highlights that along with the District Attorney, Public Defender, the Public Health, Mental Health and Office for the Aging have had an increase in grant funded positions.
The Public Health Department was originally scheduled to have 74 staff in 2023, but it was increased to 80, due to the new state required Medically Assisted Treatment program for the county jail. Those six new positions are being paid for in 2023 with opioid settlement funds. It is undetermined how those positions will be funded in future years.
The three largest departments in county government are Social Services, the Sheriff’s Office and Public Facilities. Each one has more than 100 staff.
Social Services actually had their numbers drop over the past decade. In 2013, there were 328 employees. There’s scheduled to be 313 in 2023. That’s around a 5% drop. Christine Schuyler had been overseeing both Social Services and Public Health, serving as the commissioner of Social Services and the Public Health Director. Her tenure came to an end Nov. 30 and it appears the two departments will have separate leaders in the future.
For Public Facilities, it went from 170 employees in 2013 to 195 employees today. That’s up about 15%.
Other departments that have at least 50 employees include Mental Health (88 in 2013 and 128 for 2023) and Public Health (53 in 2013 and 80 in 2023).
The four departments that decreased were the Legislature, Social Services, Veterans Services and County Clerk.
Percentage wise, the Veterans Services was the largest, because it went from three and a half to two and a half staff, a 32% decrease.
The Legislature dropped from 29 to 21 full time equivalent staff, a 26% decrease. In 2013, the legislature had 25 part-time members; today it has 19.
The County Clerk’s Office went from 29 staff in 2013 to 27 staff today, an 8% decrease.
Social Service, which went from 328 to 313 in 10 years, has a 5% decrease.
SELF FUNDED DEPARTMENTS
In 2013, self-funded departments, officially called “enterprise funds,” had many more employees. That’s because the county owned the County Home in Dunkirk that year. At that time, the County Home had 207 staff members who were county employees. Today the county has no County Home employees, because it was sold in 2014. Officials decided to sell it because it was not self-sustaining. The County Home is still in existance today, as a private entity, called Chautauqua Nurisng and Rehabilitation Center.
For the landfill, its staffing level has remained relatively the same. In 2013, there were 45 staff. In 2023, the county is planning 44.5 staff. The landfill’s entire budget is covered by fees collected.
The five remaining sewer and water departments have remained relatively flat as well. Three of them were in existence a decade ago. Each department is funded by property owners who use the services.
In 2013, the South and Center Chautauqua Lake Sewer District had 16.4 staff. It had 17 in 2022 and is scheduled to have 18 in 2023.
The North Chautauqua Lake Sewer District had 4 staff in 2013. It is scheduled to have 3.5 staff next year.
The North Chautauqua Water District had one staff in 2013 and is scheduled to have one and a half staff members in 2023.
The Portland Pomfret Dunkirk Sewer District has one staff today. The department started staffing employees in 2019.
The North Chautauqua County Water District has one part-time staff (0.14 full time equivalent) staff scheduled for 2023. The very part-time staff position was created in 2022.
CENSUS, OVERALL STAFFING LEVELS
According to the U.S. Census, in 2010, Chautauqua County had a population rate of 134,726. In 2020, the census reports there were 126,032 county residents.
In 2013, the county had 1,079 staff paid through tax dollars. From 2013-2023, there was an increase in staff every year except for 2021, when the staffing levels dropped from 1,219 in 2020 to 1,210 in 2021. In 2023, the county is projected to have 1,284 staff.
For enterprise departments, in 2013, the county had 273 staff. In 2023, those departments will have 70 staff. The big drop was in 2014 to 2015, when employment dropped from 261 to 64 staff, with the sale of the county home.
Including both tax-funded departments and self-funded departments, the county employment was at 1,352 in 2013 and is projected to be 1353 in 2023. So next year the county’s staffing level will be up a single person in a decade, yet 10 years ago, the county owned a nursing home and doesn’t today.